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US, UAE intercepts ballistic missile during Israeli President’s visit

By Tamara Qiblawi, Sahar Akbarzai, Andrew Carey and Jessie Yeung, CNN

The United States joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile as the Israeli President was in the country on a historic visit, according to authorities. The attack marks the third such incident in January.

The attack caused no damage, the UAE defense ministry said, but follows a series of unprecedented strikes on the country this month by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

A Houthi spokesman said the group launched “missiles and aircraft” at “important and sensitive” targets in the UAE and indicated that the attack was intended to disrupt Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit.

The US military helped the UAE deter the “inbound missile threat,” activating Patriot “missile batteries” along with “efforts by the armed forces of the UAE,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

There were no injuries or casualties, Kirby added.

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Monday that he’s been in contact with the UAE, and has ordered Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “to do everything he can to communicate the support of the United States for the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the Gulf region.”

The Israeli president and his entourage were in no danger, an Israeli presidential spokesman said, and the visit continued as planned. Herzog visited Expo 2020 in Dubai — the UAE’s commercial hub — on Monday and met with UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“The UAE ceases to be a safe place so long as the tools of the Israeli enemy in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are used against our people and our country,” said Houthi spokesman Yahya Al Saree on the group’s Al Masirah TV, hours after the attack.

The UAE said it responded to Monday’s attack by destroying a ballistic missile platform and launch site in Yemen’s Al Jawf.

On January 17, the Houthis launched a drone attack, killing three foreign workers in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi. The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis responded with a week-long offensive in Yemen, killing scores of people and knocking out the internet.

The Houthis launched missiles again on January 24, but the UAE intercepted those with support from the United States. After that attack, a Houthi spokesperson warned the group would “expand their operations over the next phase,” and called on foreign companies to leave the UAE.

On Sunday, Herzog met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, and condemned terrorist attacks targeting the UAE, according to the UAE’s state news agency WAM.

Herzog’s visit is the first official trip to the UAE by an Israeli President. The two countries signed a historic accord normalizing relations between the Arab and Jewish states in August 2020, setting the stage for a robust trade and security partnership.

The UAE is a leading partner in the Saudi-led coalition that has been at war for years with the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels, which control much of Yemen.

The offensive began in 2015 to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government, after it was ousted by the Houthis.

In 2019, the UAE pulled most of its troops from Yemen, after privately deeming the war unwinnable. The campaign failed to crush the rebels but exacted a huge humanitarian toll, with thousands of Yemenis dead and malnourishment and disease widespread.

More recently, the UAE has returned to the conflict, backing Yemeni groups in flashpoints like the oil-rich provinces of Shabwa and Marib.

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